For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you, through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2 Tim 1:6-7
See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!" And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there and say to them; "the kingdom of God has come near to you." But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its street and say, " even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you,. Yet know this, the kingdom of God has come near."... Luke 10:2-6
I've always been bewildered by this passage in Luke. Maybe bewildered is a little understatement. I think it has simply frightened me. Jesus sends out seventy apostles--men and women who, by definition are apostles (the word apostle means "those who are sent") to the towns and places he himself intended to go. And he specifically tells them they're headed for hostile territory--like lambs into the midst of wolves. And that they must travel light. No purse, bag, sleeping gear, change of clothes, toiletries, no personal computer, favorite translation of scripture, no copies of best, past sermons, Sunday school lessons, knitting or spinning for down time, a snack for the road, a bottle of water for when it is thirsty, not even a Visa card--cause they're accepted everywhere you want to be. Well, maybe I've revealed why this passage frightens me. The apostles simply go. Jesus' instructions are simple: Offer peace, accept what is put before you. If your ministry is not accepted, move on. And in either case, tell them, "the kingdom of God has come near."
Now, this passage is almost like a dry run of the post-resurrection command of Jesus. "I want you to go into the whole world and make disciples" It is from this passage that the United Methodist Church takes its mission Statement: to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
So, we get back to that age-old question--What the heck does that mean? To some, it must mean to convince folks to be clones of a particular belief system. "Believe the way I do and you will be a disciple of Jesus Christ." But, Disciple of Christ pastor and homileticists Fred Craddock puts it this way: "Some people misread that word "make" as though Jesus is commanding his followers to coerce people into becoming disciples. That's not what it means; it means simply "disciple everybody." It's a verb. Disciple people. How do you disciple People? The same way Jesus did. He loved them. He blessed them. He helped them, ......." [Cherry Log Sermons, p 43, "What God Wants this Church To Do.]
Jesus' instructions to the 70? "Offer peace, tell them the Kingdom of God has come near."
Now, if we can get over the shock of going without any of our artificial safety nets, of depending on others--specifically on those we are in ministry with, and remembering the message--the Kingdom of God has come near. What happens with the apostles? They come home in joy! They've been sent as lambs among the wolves, and they come home in joy.
I think that often when we think about sharing the good news, we get frightened that we aren't equipped, we're not ready, we don't know what we're doing, or how we can share. Our shortsightedness and fear keep us from seeing the hope and joy that is part and parcel to the task a hand.
But Jesus asks the disciples to share two things: God's peace, and the wonderful news that God's kingdom, God's presence is already here, right in our midst. What are the ways that God is already present in your life? Have you felt the peace in your heart that comes from a deepening relationship with God? If you can think of ways that God is present, if you feel that peace, you've got all you need to journey as the disciples did, be it physically or spiritually, and share the good news with whoever you meet. And with that sharing, God's love comes back in joy. We don't need anything else--we don't need our plans and our distractions. We don't need our busy-ness. We only need to know that God travels the road with us. Remember, it isn't a sales job we are called to do. It is a love thing: we don't have to have all the answers, and we don't have to convince anyone else that we are right. Share God's peace and that God's presence is right here, right in our midst.
Know that the Kingdom of God has come near.